PEORIA, IL -- The city of Peoria has raked in $83 million from the Par-A-Dice Riverboat gambling venue over the last 22 years, but none has gone to the schools and children of Peoria.
Schools critic Terry Knapp gave the figures to the Peoria School District 150 Board of Education on Sept. 26 during the public comment periods, based on his Freedom of Information Act request. "Not a nickle went to children in this community," he said.
The money could be used to reimburse the district for transferring Peoria Stadium to the Peoria Park District, he said. In addition, numerous TIF districts have taken tax dollars away from the schools, he said.
"We need to replace the council and mayor who is not supporting the schools," Knapp said.
Here is a recording of the comments.
Another speaker, Andrea Tortora of Friends of Peoria County Schools, told the board that Peoria mayor Jim Ardis (Mr. Twittergate, Mr. Give-Away-Riverfront Park) has agreed not to speak against passage of a referendum that would provide additional sales tax funds to schools in Peoria County.
But Ardis is not supporting it, either. (And he has the nerve to run for re-election in next April's municipal elections.)
Knapp also spoke about a new DVD called Killing Education, about the Gulen schools, including Quest, the Peoria charter school. The Gulen chain was finally kicked out by the Quest board after the FBI raided the school looking for visa violations by its Turkish staff.
It's founder, ex-Caterpillar CEO Glen Barton and his pals, denied the Turkish connection until they could no longer do so. See previous posts.
(Barton is a developer of the apartments in Riverfront Park, not yet approved by the National Park Service.)
The DVD is long at 90 minutes and one sided, but interesting. Knapp has given a copy to the School Board. (I have read elsewhere the founder Gulen is considered a moderate, but the film says he's a radical. He's wanted in Turkey for fomenting the recent attempted coup, which he has denied. He lives in Pennsylvania.)
Knapp noted that Quest students went to Turkey four times, for "indoctrination," though more likely so their teachers could get a free trip home.
At the time Knapp kept asking why London and Paris had not been chosen instead. Members of Congress also got trips to Turkey, likely free. "This is garbage.," Knapp said.
"You need to know who is coming into our community," he told the board.
The final insult, according to Knapp: "Woodruff (High School) was replaced by Quest, which graduated only 36 students last spring, half of the original class. What happened to the rest? Knapp asked. Were they kicked out or dropped out?"
No research has been done on the displaced Woodruff High School students. "Did they graduate?" Knapp asked.
Tortora said a campaign will begin to pass the sales tax referendum, and the groups needs donations. It's website is FriendsofPeoriaCountySchools.org.
Two parents told the board of distressing situations at Richwoods High School.
Charlie Thomas, a former district employee, said his daughter was suspended because someone said she smelled like marijuana, even though no drugs were found on her or her property.
He picked her up and took her to Proctor Hospital where she tested negative for any drugs, he said, yet she was still suspended, requiring him to go to a hearing. He was obviously still furious.
Jennifer Clark said her daughter has been bullied at school, but school officials won't do anything to discipline the offenders. "I've watched it happen," she said, adding she has a video of an incident.
Now the girl hates school and doesn't want to go. "She gets picked on every day."
She said she would move out of town if she could afford to do so, and she knows other parents who have moved because of bullying.
In its response to the comments, board members briefly sparred over the recent closure of the alternative school at Woodruff, with Dan Walther saying he decided not to call for a vote to reopen it, but he objected to the closure process with parents and children not notified in a timely way.
Board president Martha Ross said board members were notified in advance, but Walther said he wasn't notified. Ross said the closure decision was an administrative function therefore up to the superintendent.
-- Elaine Hopkins